Monday, August 29, 2011

Are Online Students Only Virtually Educated?

Via the Chronicle of Higher Education, a new survey shows the public to be much more skeptical of online education than college presidents are:

Just over half of the 1,055 college presidents queried believe that online courses offer a value to students that equals a traditional classroom's. By contrast, only 29 percent of 2,142 adult Americans thought online education measured up to traditional teaching.

This seems about right to me. While that latest research continues to show that college students perform equally well in online and "real" courses (in fact, the a U.S. Department of Education meta-analysis from 2010 showed that students in blended courses performed better than anyone), the general perception of online courses as repositories for slackers and students seeking hassle-free degrees still remains. I've been asked many times, "Do you get paid the same for online courses?"

Online education has an image problem, and it's partly deserved. Mostly this is because institutions neglect online courses. Experienced educators tend to avoid them. Colleges and universities see them as revenue streams (this was precisely The University of California's strategy. They didn't even hide it.) and often fail to develop consistent course frameworks, pedagogy, and training (beyond the usual "how to use Blackboard" kind).

The research shows that online courses are not inferior. Instead, they are a different medium in need of a different approach that has yet to fully form. Of course, given the increase in online enrollment and the reality of budget shortfalls, the time has arrived for online education. At least five states now feature online courses as part of their required high school curriculum.

Like most revolutions, the we'll be standing in rubble before we have a clear picture of what the next government will look like.

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